Four hundred years ago on a starry evening, an Italian man looked into the lens of his telescope and beheld the glories of the universe. One by one, over the course of time, he would document his discoveries and share them with his colleagues.
Such great illumination would come his way through the tiniest of portals—a little lens that would reveal gigantic truths. His life was about to change forever.
Galileo Galilei, the man of Tuscany, observed the phases of Venus and calculated that it revolved around the sun and not the earth. He turned his telescope to the sun and observed the awesome movements of its sunspots. Something was happening out there!
He detected shadowy patterns on our moon's surface, allowing him to discern that the moon had mountains and valleys. It was not a smooth and perfect cosmic ball, which was the belief of his time regarding all heavenly orbs.
Finally, the astronomer viewed four "stars" (today, we know them as moons) that always accompanied Jupiter, and with further observation, he saw that they revolved around that planet and not our own.
We are a part of a greater whole
This final observation regarding celestial orbs circling around another known planet would be the resounding discovery.
Through the lens of his telescope, Galileo came to a profound conclusion that only a few ancient Greeks and Copernicus before him had come to know. As human beings on planet earth, we are not the center of the universe! God had created an incredibly complex yet orderly tapestry of stars, planets and moons that revolve around His designs and purposes rather than man's. We are a part of a greater whole that we cannot totally comprehend.
Imagine Galileo's incredible desire to share such amazing observations! How do you keep something so grand "under wraps"?
Galileo not only dared to behold, but he also dared to tell a story that needed to be told. And tell, he did! He began to chronicle his observations in books. Galileo, a deeply religious man, desired to share his findings with his church.
As he ventured around Italy, he invited other scholars and religious figures alike to peer into the world that had opened up to him. Many refused to peer into this window of opportunity. But why? They were afraid. Whatever they saw would change their way of thinking and course of actions.
Shattering the status quo
Eventually the Catholic Church's involvement with Galileo moved from curiosity and dismissal to condemnation. The religious authorities of his day could not equate his findings with biblical verses such as Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10 and 1 Chronicles 16:30 that discuss (depending on the translation) that the world is firmly established and it shall not be moved.
The religious authorities improperly interpreted these verses regarding the sovereignty of God's purpose for the earth as referring to its literal placement in relationship to other heavenly bodies.
Galileo's heliocentric teachings squarely confronted the long-standing teachings of the Catholic Church, as well as the generally accepted geocentric conclusions of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher. Ultimately, Galileo was placed on trial for heresy before the Inquisition of the church and was forced to recant his findings.
For the remainder of his life, he endured house imprisonment. During those final years, the astronomer with eyes that had beheld the movement of the heavens went completely blind. But even though he recanted his observations in order to save his life, and even as his eyes dimmed, he knew the truth that he had seen. By tradition, it is said that even as he recanted he mumbled under his breath—"And yet it moves!"
Galileo had dared to behold and dared to tell facts that needed to be told. He learned, like so many others throughout history, that shattering the status quo of widely held beliefs and taking on treasured icons is risky business. There are "none so blind as those who refuse to see." And yes, one must be willing to suffer the consequences for the sake of truth.
"The Country of the Blind"
Truth can be stranger than fiction, but allow me to share a fictitious story with a powerful point. It is reminiscent of the plight of Galileo as well as of the servants of God down through the ages who dare to describe the works of a Creator who men refuse to acknowledge.
H.G. Wells wrote a short story titled "The Country of the Blind" about a man who fell over a precipice into a valley isolated from the rest of the world. He discovered that all the people living there had no eyes.
No one had ever seen the sky, nor did they know what sunlight was like. "Sight" was not a word in their vocabulary. Despite being incredibly inventive and clever with their hands, they believed only in what they could taste, smell, touch and hear. They told the visitor that there was a solid ceiling at certain times and heat to be turned on and off at other times.
He assured them that there was no solid ceiling but glorious infinite sky, filled with stars by night and the glory of the sun by day. He said that water fell from cloud galleons sailing in the marvelous ocean of the sky and that warmth streamed upon them from a heavenly body millions of miles away.
At first they mocked him for supposing that they were gullible enough to believe such childish fantasies. Then they decided he must be a lunatic and might be dangerous. Finally, they insisted that he must undergo a surgical operation and let them remove the two soft, twitching, bulging objects that they could feel in his face to cure his incomprehensible disease—sight.
Holding onto those eyes
But why such drastic measures? Evidently these eyes were the cause of his mad delusions. Once they were removed, he would become like the rest of them, happily unaware of a dream world of fantastic nonsense and satisfied with the practical world of things merely heard and touched.
Rather than lose his precious sight, the man chose to climb to the foot of the precipice over which he had fallen, and there, in the freezing cold of the oncoming night, he contentedly lay down to a certain fate and once more viewed the beauty of the glowing sunset.
This man was willing to share with others the reality of a world unseen by them. The world and light he saw was so real to him—he could not bear to exist in a diminished world and deny the world he saw. He knew it! He lived it. He shared it. He died for it.
The gravity of human nature
Galileo and the stranger in "The Country of the Blind" are compelling examples of what has faced servants of God down through the ages. The challenge has been the gravity of human nature. It powerfully pulls toward self what it holds near, dear and true and repels the awakenings that God provides about a much larger world than the tiny stagnant boxes into which we unwittingly try to squeeze Him.
And thus like with Galileo or the man in "The Country of the Blind," we seek to do away with the messenger rather than heed the message. Why? People don't want to stir up things and make matters messy ("don't confuse me with the facts").
Shattering the status quo is serious business, but God has been at it for a long time through His servants. Nathan the prophet didn't make King David peer through a telescope, but he challenged him to look into himself and recognize, "You are the man!"—the one David had just condemned to death (2 Samuel 12:7).
King Ahab of Israel strove to marginalize the prophet Elijah by branding him the "troubler of Israel." But the prophet swung the lens of God's message around and said to the king: "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have" (1 Kings 18:17-18).
Jesus came with a view of the Kingdom of Heaven that would have made Galileo faint, but the people of Jesus' day scoffed and scowled. In fact, they put Him through their own form of inquisition, because they couldn't handle the facts.
What He brought was too radical and would "upset the cart" of tradition and time-honored ways of doing things. He had said that not one stone of the temple would be left standing (Matthew 24:2). The temple was the center of the Jewish universe at that time. Everything revolved around it.
Jesus was striving to widen their universe! As Dorothy Sayers put it so well, "He [Christ] retorted by asking disagreeable questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb...But He had a 'daily beauty in His life that made us ugly.'" And so the leaders decided the established order of things would be more secure without Him. "So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness."
Daring to share!
Daring to share what you behold bears great risks. The prophetic scriptures of the Bible indicate that true servants of God in the future will proclaim what God reveals to them through the lens of His Holy Spirit.
Your Bible reveals a world in the future where everyone will be enamored with a temporal and religious system collectively known as "the beast."
The flow and order of this global system will appear seamless, grounded and even religiously sublime. The overwhelming sentiment will be, "Who is like the beast?" (Revelation 13:4). This system's economy will appear well-ordered and supply everyone's needs (Revelation 18:10-19).
Thinking and using the mind and heart God gave man to come to Him will become short-circuited. The gravity of human nature will draw humanity as a whole into the small universe of an evil man and a false prophet.
But there are those who will be looking through a different lens—one that opens up to the God of heaven and reveals that their God is greater than the accepted beliefs of their time. This different lens reveals that the Creator of the universe is on a straight trajectory toward planet earth, and there is going to be a collision between His Kingdom and the kingdoms of this earth (Revelation 19:11-16).
Such individuals will not only dare to behold what God chooses to do but will dare to tell the facts that need to be told about a system that appears ordained of God but is godless in nature.
Just like with Galileo, the prophets of old and Jesus Christ, people will desire to silence them or take out those eyes that make them speak of such "foolish nonsense." When all else fails, people will seek to extinguish the light altogether in the name of peace and quietness.
And yet God moves!
But unlike Galileo, the servants of God will not recant! Revealed prophetic truth is more powerful than fiction. Scripture reveals that individuals like God's two witnesses will go to their deaths rather than deny the God of the heavens (Revelation 11:7-8).
The Bible foretells of Christians who "did not love their lives to the death" (Revelation 12:11) because of what they saw through the lens of God's personal revelation to them. Rather than murmur under their breath, "And yet it moves," they testify loud and clear, "And yet God moves!"
Until that time, let's take time in the here and now to ask ourselves, What lens are we looking through? Is it the lens of human nature that pulls us into the shallow orbit of self? Or is it the lens of God's expansive revelation that reveals what He is truly doing?
Perhaps the words of David, the psalmist of old, best echo the sentiment of "this is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21) when he directs our attention upward and outward.
He proclaimed, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" (Psalm 8:3-4).